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Go the distance

Agriculture.com Staff 01/03/2006 @ 11:00pm

The 80-year-old cement block barn on Rick Rosenboom's farm in northeastern Illinois near Herscher is a testament to the staying power of four generations of his family. Rick, 41, and his wife, Joy, loaded the last hogs out of it more than a decade ago, and the barn became a final resting place for farm flotsam and jetsam -- spare tires, steel remnants, and irrigation pipe. Last year Rick's dad, Russ, asked Rick and his brother, Randy, 44, to help him remodel it.

Today, the old barn has a new lease on life as an office hub for their 6,000-acre operation and a cool hangout for the nine Rosenboom kids and their friends.

Like the old barn, their family farm is evolving. "The definition of farming was different in the past, and it will continue to change," Russ says. "I see more multiple units scattered out to help reduce weather risks and take advantage of different soil types. This also offers a bigger window of time for the growing season and helps diversify crops grown."

Russ and his wife, Marilyn, got their start farming 7 miles away near Clifton in 1959. "I had a three-year lease on a 160-acre farm including the machinery," he says. "I got a $5,000 FHA loan. After five years, our landlord had an offer to sell, and he asked if we were interested in buying."

At the time they bought the farm, Russ and Marilyn had two sons -- Randy born in 1961 and Rick born in 1965.

Russ began raising hogs in an old barn. "A few years later, the Chicago Stockyard was closing down, and I paid $100 for used lumber to build the rafters for a new confinement building," he says. By the late 1960s, they were marketing 2,000 head of hogs.

"In 1969, hogs hit $66 a head, and we built a new house," he says.

The 80-year-old cement block barn on Rick Rosenboom's farm in northeastern Illinois near Herscher is a testament to the staying power of four generations of his family. Rick, 41, and his wife, Joy, loaded the last hogs out of it more than a decade ago, and the barn became a final resting place for farm flotsam and jetsam -- spare tires, steel remnants, and irrigation pipe. Last year Rick's dad, Russ, asked Rick and his brother, Randy, 44, to help him remodel it.

In the 1970s, their operation experienced a growth spurt when they bought a farm on contract near Herscher. Located on a landmark hilltop known as Pilot Grove, they began raising cattle there. A few years later, three neighbors offered to sell their farms to them. After some poor livestock prices in the 1970s, they focused on cash grain.

As the farm has grown, the Rosenbooms recognized the need for business and transition planning. The corporation owns most of Rick and Randy's machinery, but they each have some equipment.

Russ served on the Iroquois County Board for 14 years. The time constraints of chairing the board expanded management roles for Rick and Randy when they were in their late 20s.

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